More than 50 groups, from high school marching bands and this year’s Little League champs to Shriners in their tiny cars, the Hitmen Brass Band, American Legion colorguard and floats each from three different alumni classes, the 2022 Oatka Festival will remind spectators what they’ve missed during the pandemic.
After two long years of social distancing, this year’s festival promises folks two full days of parade entertainment, assorted yummy food tents, a fishing and a duck derby, the reunion gathering of Class of 1965, ’67’ and ’77, a music tent, children’s activities, a car show, photo contest, and craft and food vendors.
The fun kicks off Friday evening with a dance for LeRoy students that runs from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. for grades one to six and 8 to 10 p.m. for grades seven to 12. The festival runs 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday on the banks of Oatka Creek and in Trigon Park.
“It’s Le Roy’s little state fair, just a little community get-together," said Scott Ripley, chairman of the parade committee.
It’s an understatement to say planning such an event takes time.
“I start calling people for the parade in January; you've got to book them early," Ripley said. "The parade is awesome, I love the parade. It lasts for a good hour.”
His first year helping out was in 2012, and he recalled how he and his wife Mary Margaret handed out coupons for a free cookie from her prior bakery shop. They handed out 500 of them, he said. The parade typically draws much more than that, as people line both sides of Main Street.
Ripley has also served as parade announcer and has become well-versed in most aspects of the event, from the “fire department’s potatoes” to a surprise at this year’s duck derby.
He was happy to book a return visit from Downbeat Percussion, which was last there about six years ago. The group’s first performance was in 2013, and it has expanded throughout New York State, including for the Buffalo Bills, and in Canada for parades. Downbeat’s website states the group “will energize your parade with our world-class performers and entertainers.”
“So that's gonna be exciting to see the original percussions of the Buffalo Bills,” Ripley said.
The parade is to begin at 11 a.m. Saturday, and anyone that walks in unregistered — but is ready to go — will still be accepted, he said.
Other groups include the Mighty St. Joe’s Alumni Drum and Bugle Corps, a crowd favorite, and The Hitmen Brass Band, a fun and talented group of musicians, who dress the part in colorful pin-stripe zoot suits. Formerly from Attica, they were founded in 2002 by World Drum Corps and Buglers Hall of Fame Member David Martin.
Ripley just registered two more groups this week, including Limerock Speedway and an auto-detailing company. A first-time float from Le Roy’s Historical Society will pay homage to Ingham University, which once graced the banks of the Oatka in Le Roy, New York and was the first women's college in New York State and the first chartered women's university in the United States.
Back to those potatoes, which the fire department buys whole, slices, and fries into a golden crispy french fry. There’s also Le Roy Rotary’s hotdogs, plus pizza, pulled pork, chicken barbecue and beef on weck.
Kids will have plenty to do, Ripley said, with a mini petting zoo, a child-friendly mechanical bull, a rock wall, Mr. Scribbles, a boot camp challenge and a two-lane balloon slide.
Is your child photogenic and like Jell-O? Snap a picture and enter it for the Toddler’s First Picture Eating Jell-O contest. There will be a public vote of the entries during the festival, and the winner receives a basket full of Jell-O products. Entries must be submitted by Thursday.
Vendors will be selling their wares of glass fixtures, T-shirts, rugs, Farmers Market produce, baby booties, washcloths, meat and more. There will also be a K-9 demonstration, a used book sale and music by various artists, including a Fleetwood Mac tribute band. A 50/50 raffle promises one winner $500 on Saturday and another winner of half the grand total pot on Sunday. Both drawings are set for 5 p.m. each day. That grand bounty is at least $1,000 “for sure,” Ripley said.
For more information about the festival schedule or related events, go to oatkafestival.org.
2018 File photos of Le Roy's Oatka Festival. Photos by Howard Owens.
Here are two videos from 2019, when Le Roy was able to last host the Oatka Festival.